a few september snaps

I know I’m not the only one wondering where the month has gone. (This year especially, that seems to keep happening.) September has been the wettest month in Trondheim so far – I think it’s rained nearly every day. Just weeks and weeks of rain. Yesterday we finally had a clear day for the first time in ages, and it was a real treat! But I did manage to grab a few snaps in the past few days when there were breaks in the rain. I thought I’d share a few with you today, in case you needed a dose of autumn beauty.

Although I didn’t feel quite ready for it when the first signs of fall started showing themselves, I’m definitely enjoying it now. It’s hard not to love this season in Norway, even when the rain clouds won’t leave you alone.

Yesterday’s clear skies gave us one more treat – I finally saw some proper northern lights in Trondheim! We were absolutely spoiled when we lived in Tromsø, since they happen quite regularly there. In Trondheim they’re less frequent, and there’s quite a bit of light pollution both from the city, as well as the farming region on the north side of the fjord which has a lot of greenhouses that cast a noticeable orange glow into the sky. But last night, there were a few minutes of pretty active aurora and we were lucky enough to watch from our balcony. I’ve really missed the aurora, so I hope we get to see some more this year.

FOs: angelou & hazel

I have two finished sweaters to share with you today. First up is my Angelou cardigan, started earlier this year and first appearing on the blog back in April.

I actually finished knitting this one in July (I shared it nearly finished here), but it took me a couple of weeks to get around to blocking it, and then I probably waffled about which buttons to use for at least a month. I finally settled on some pretty metal buttons (purchased from Stoff og Stil) and on Sunday I sat down and sewed them on. and I’m really pleased with how the whole thing came out, and as predicted, there is nothing in my wardrobe quite like this cardigan. I wore it to work today and it was so nice to finally wear it out of the house, buttons and all!

The pattern is the Angelou cardigan by Alexis Winslow and I used Kelbourne Woolens Scout in the Orchid Heather colorway. It’s a DK weight, and while the pattern calls for sport weight, the gauge of 22 sts per 4″/10 cm means a DK works very comfortably here – it’s just a little bit cozier in the slightly thicker yarn.

I also finished knitting a Hazel pullover for myself. I don’t think Hazel has featured on the blog at all, neither this version in-progress, nor the original sample I made last year. Hazel is a pattern I designed for Quince & Co. and it was released together with a baby/child version called Hedy. They are effectively the same design, just imagined for adults in one case and children in the other. The lice stitch on Hedy is the other distinguishing factor. Both of the original pattern samples were knit in Lark, Quince’s worsted weight wool, and were part of the Core Wool 2019 releases last autumn. Since those pattern samples were part of a larger collection, the colors chosen for them were part of a larger cohesive color theme (and in this case, they aren’t colors or color combinations I probably would have chosen on my own).

I decided to knit a version of Hazel for myself that was inspired by the Hedy sample, in many ways. I chose green for the main color, but my contrast color is very similar to the one used for Hedy. I also carried over the lice stitch. Instead of using Lark, I took the opportunity to finally make myself something with Owl, Quince’s wool/alpaca worsted weight. Unlike their worsted spun wool yarns, Owl is woolen spun, so it has an entirely different look and feel to the core wool yarns. I’ve wanted to use Owl for a very long time, and it’s strange that having worked with Quince on patterns since 2015 that it took until now for it to happen. I’m happy to say that it did not disappoint. The shades I chose were Hemlock (the deep green) and Bubo (the very heathered grey-taupe). I had a lot of fun knitting this and the finished sweater is immensely cozy as well.

I cast on for Hazel a few days after finishing the knitting on Angelou, and it was finished in August. I’m continuing to try and chip away at my WIPs without casting on too many new things, but I actually lined up a bunch of pattern work for the fall and I’ve got some samples to knit in the next couple of months, so there will still be new cast ons.

I do have to acknowledge that both of these sweaters make me think about the year that this has been so far, in different ways. Angelou was started back in the relatively early days of the quarantine period, and my strongest memory of working on it is sitting on the couch on May 17, Norway’s national day, watching the NRK coverage of the limited festivities that were possible (this was the first year since the occupation during World War II that the 17th of May parade in Oslo wasn’t held). And this version of Hazel was a comfort knit, but it also reminded me of knitting my original sample last year, mostly on a trip to Australia. We were there in March of 2019, well before the summer fire season they had at the end of the year and the beginning of 2020, but it’s difficult not to think about the fires right now, as the west coast of the US burns like it never has before. Seattle is one of the places I call home, and my heart aches for everyone who is suffering, who’s lost loved ones or homes or belongings. It aches for the damage being done to the landscape, the environment, the ecosystems that rely on them. The smoke everyone can’t help but breathe in. I don’t have any deep thoughts to share, but if you are affected by the fires in any way right now, my heart goes out to you. I will be researching the best places to send aid at this time, and I hope that you all are staying safe and taking care.

september

Late summer is giving way to early autumn.

You can feel the days growing shorter here in Trondheim, the sun sitting lower in the sky. While I enjoyed the long summer days, the return of night and the stars is welcome. The wildflowers have almost all finished and filled the breezy air with floating seeds. The rose hips are ripening and the rowan berries are turning bright red. A few eager leaves have even stared changing color.

I find myself moving back and forth between good days and low ones. Some days I feel like I’m coping relatively well with everything going on in the world and I can find moments of joy. Other days are harder. I’m sure many of you have felt similarly. It’s hard to know what to say beyond that.

I continue to take refuge in making, though, and I have finished a few projects in the past few months that I’ve been wanting to share as well. So hopefully you’ll see some more crafting in this space very soon.

In the meantime, I’m doing my best to soak up the lingering warm, sunny days we’re getting in between pockets of rain. I do enjoy a good mix of both, so I have no complaints there. And I’ll never turn down an excuse to enjoy an ice cream outside in the sunshine. As always, I hope you’re keeping well.

FO: vellum

Today I wanted to share my Vellum cardigan. As I mentioned in my previous post, this one was an unplanned knit. I cast on May 1st and was finished by the 9th, so it went rather quickly. It was also a fun project for a lot of reasons.

This pattern is from Karie Westermann’s book This Thing of Paper. I wrote about the book several years ago, back when it was in the crowdfunding stages, and the end result is gorgeous. The inspiration for the patterns comes from the evolution of the printed page, from medieval manuscript to the printing press, which makes it a treat for a book lover. Still, even though I’ve had my copy since it was released in 2017, I had yet to knit anything from it. Vellum wasn’t even one of the patterns originally topping my list of favorites. Karie’s original color combo was nice, but it wasn’t very me, and some of the other pieces in the book spoke to me more.

Vellum by Karie Westermann

But it floated to the front of my mind when I realized the skeins of Mendip DK I’d purchased from Marina Skua would make a lovely colorwork yoke. Katie from Inside Number 23 knit a version of Vellum at the beginning of this year (seen finished in this episode), and it was that project that first helped me see this pattern in a new light. So when I decided I wanted to use my Mendip DK in a yoke, I figured playing with the charts from Vellum might work out well.

I made several modifications to this pattern to make it the sweater I wanted. I cropped the body slightly (although both the body and the sleeves came out slightly longer than I’d anticipated), and consequently changed the waist shaping. I also made several changes to the colorwork charts in order to really put Marina’s Mendip DK colorways on display. I was particularly interested in combining the Teal and Fox colorways in a section, so I added colorwork to one of the sections that was originally a single color. I also added a third color to one of the rows (the second motif from the bottom of the yoke, in brown Beech, orange Fox, and grey Sheep – the grey stitches were my addition). Getting the motifs to line up the way I wanted them to meant shifting around a couple of the decreases as well, but in the end it was absolutely worth it.

I mentioned the yarn of the main color for the body and sleeves in my last post: ancient stash yarn from Kahurangi Natural Wools in New Zealand, handed down to me from my aunt and originally purchased who-knows-how-long ago. This yarn is their Double Knitting and the colorway is Oatmeal. I’ve tried to use this yarn for one or two projects in the past and never ended up finishing them, so it felt really wonderful to finally put it to use, and in a garment I ended up loving. It was a pretty decent match for the Mendip DK, if perhaps ever-so-slightly thicker.

Vellum is steeked at the front, and I worked a crochet reinforcement before cutting it open. I believe this is the second cardigan front I’ve steeked (although I’ve steeked arm and neck openings on other garments) but this is the first time I’ve covered the steek edge with any kind of trim. It makes for such a neat finish, though, and I found the perfect trim to use over at Textile Garden (the buttons also came from Textile Garden). The teal and orange of the trim are a perfect match for Marina’s colorways.

I am very satisfied with this project – it feels good when things come together the way you hoped they would. I do feel like I want to address one issue, though – I recently spoke up about size inclusivity over on Instagram, and about my reasons for choosing not to knit a pattern from a recent collection Rauma launched in collaboration with an independent Norwegian designer. I want to acknowledge that the size range for Vellum isn’t that much bigger than the collection I was talking about. But I also want to state why knitting one of Karie’s patterns is different for me (and I understand if anyone disagrees with this): Karie is an independent designer who has also spoken up about pattern sizing and inclusivity in recent years. I know she cares about it. I know she’s been actively working on a size range for her patterns that includes much larger sizes than her patterns previously have done. I want to support her in that work, and I hope that some of her previously published work will see expanded sizing in the future (something I’m working on with my own previously published patterns). Companies like Rauma, while I love them for their yarns, do not have a great track record on size inclusivity and have not shown much of an inclination to change on that front. So it’s harder to choose to knit a Rauma pattern for a very basic summer top when that’s the case (I adapted a Jessie Maed pattern instead).

further reflections on making

Sir Duke shawl by Thread & Ladle, knit in Little Fox Yarn Vulpine DK

Back in February, I wrote a bit about the state of my creative life, as far as feeling like I had limited time to be making things, and how that played a role in my plans for knitting and sewing in 2020. At that point, I was still relatively recently reunited with my yarn stash and full roster of WIPs, and it was slightly overwhelming after six months without it. I wrote that I had two strong desires: to work through and finish existing WIPs, and to be working from stash for new projects. I had (and still have) a lot of projects queued up which I already have yarn for.

Then came Covid-19.

My overwhelming stash suddenly felt less overwhelming as my focus turned outward, to the many friends and independent businesses suddenly facing a year without revenue from fiber shows. That’s a massive blow for any small fiber business, and as I’m fortunate that my job hasn’t been in jeopardy, I ended up making a fair few purchases I hadn’t been planning on, both yarn as well as patterns and other supplies and tools. I definitely don’t regret it, but it meant this year’s making plans went out the window for a little while.

Twister Lolly Socks by The Crimson Stitchery, knit with Artfil Belle from stash

That being said, I wanted to sort of check in with myself here to see how it has affected my making. And when I sit down and look at what’s on the needles and what’s been completed, the impact was maybe smaller than I would’ve guessed. A few of those projects pictured in that post from February are now finished, for one thing. I’ve cast on several new projects since February, but many of those are also finished (see the Sir Duke shawl a the top of this post, the Twister Lolly socks above, and the Vellum cardigan below, for a few examples). Some of the old WIPs are still WIPs, but I’m working on that too. I’ve finished 17 projects since that post in February was written (a number I only just counted up and which makes me go !!!! a little bit). I still have 12 WIPs, which is evidence of new cast ons, but I had 16 in February so the overall trend is still towards more things getting finished than cast on. I guess the stay-at-home period combined with a delay in my data collection for my PhD meant there was more time for making than I was anticipating after all. The comfort that comes from slow stitching is certainly a factor as well, as it has been very welcome through the emotional rollercoaster that has been 2020 so far.

An almost-finished Angelou cardigan by Alexis Winslow, sans pocket linings & buttons and in need of a good blocking

Yarns have been a mix of new yarns and stash yarns. Most of the new yarns have been those purchases from indie yarnies who’ve had shows cancelled, and it does feel good to put those to use. And digging into some of my old stash yarns has felt really good as well. In particular, I’m nearing the finish line on an Angelou cardigan (a pattern from Alexis Winslow’s Homage collection), which is a pattern I first queued in May 2018, the same month I purchased the yarn for it. It had been patiently waiting for nearly two years, but I finally cast on in April. All that I have left to knit is the pocket linings, and then it’ll be ready for a blocking. I have nothing like it in my wardrobe, so it’s going to be incredibly satisfying to finally wear that one.

Vellum by Karie Westermann, knit in Marina Skua Mendip DK and Kahurangi Natural Wools

Even some of the surprise projects have made use of stash in unexpected ways. I purchased some skeins of Mendip DK from my friend Marina Skua back in April, thinking I might use them for some accessories. But then I realized they’d go together very nicely in a colorwork yoke, and I saw an opportunity to turn to my pattern library for inspiration. I chose to use the skeins of Mendip in the yoke of a Vellum cardigan (from Karie Westermann’s book This Thing of Paper), and the yarn for the main body and sleeves of the cardigan was proper deep stash: two 200g skeins of New Zealand wool from Kahurangi Natural Wools Double Knitting which were given to me by my aunt probably nearly 10 years ago. I have a few different yarns from Kahurangi that my aunt gave me, some of which I’ve used in the past, but some of which has been sitting around for years, leaving me feeling stumped as to what to do with it. So this one was an incredibly satisfying knit, and I’m planning to write about it in more detail very soon because I also made several modifications.

I’ve found that after the initial frenzy of shopping I did back in March, there’s been an ebb and flow to my desire to finish WIPs and work from the materials I already have on hand, and my desire to support businesses in the craft industry who are struggling due to a loss of revenue this year. But lately I’m once again finding the yarn stash a little overwhelming, and reminding myself that there are other ways to support businesses and designers that don’t involve adding yarn to an already overflowing stash. So for the latter half of this year I want to refocus, and to work on finishing up some of the projects that have been hanging around for months or even longer. Trying to focus on one or two projects at a time (one more complex “home” project and one simpler “on-the-go” project I can keep in my bag seems to work well for me) definitely helps speed up the process.

What role has making been playing in your life this year?

a quick road trip to smøla

Mountains and water are visible through the window of a ferry boat. A table and red seats are visible in the foreground.

At the beginning of the week, the heat finally broke, and we’ve been enjoying a bit of rain along with much cooler temperatures. For anyone whose summer holiday started this week, I recognize that that’s probably inconvenient, but since I’ll be working on and off throughout July (I only have half the usual allotted vacation days this year since I only worked 6 months in Norway last year) I have to admit I’m finding the change in weather more conducive to getting some work done. It feels quite a lot like it did this time last year – we had a lot of chilly rain after a period of beautiful weather.

That being said, I did take two days off this week and we drove over to see some dear friends who were spending the week on the island of Smøla. Smøla is a few hours west of Trondheim, in the neighboring county of Møre og Romsdal. It was a quick trip for us being only two days, but still really enjoyable and a nice break from the daily grind.

The last leg of the drive involves car ferry to get over to the island, and even though the ferry ride is a short twenty, it was nice to be on a boat. Smøla itself is pretty flat (I think the highest point is just over 60 m / 200 ft) so I wasn’t expecting the islands we drove through on the way to have such high peaks, but I enjoyed the dramatic landscape. It definitely made me want to come back to the Nordmøre region.

We did have grey skies and rain on our first day, but Wednesday was unexpectedly clear and we were able to enjoy a bit of sunshine as well (which also made the drive home that evening much easier). The change of scenery, staying in a seaside cabin with friends, eating fresh fish, and visiting different corners of the island were all so nice. We had cake and coffee on the deck at Villsaubutikken, serenaded by a chorus of villsau sheep. Or more accurately, gammelnorsk sau (“Old Norwegian sheep”). This sheep breed is very commonly known as villsau in Norway, but that name literally means “wild sheep” and is thus a misnomer, as the Old Norwegian sheep isn’t actually wild. There were quite a few of them on Smøla, in any case.

I brought along one knitting project, a shawl I started last weekend. It’s the Trelawney Shawl by Tyne Swedish, which has been in my favorites basically since she released it, and I’m knitting it up in two gorgeous colors of yarn from Birch Hollow Fibers. I was able to make some good progress on our trip.

And a shift from the tone of the rest of this post: normally I would link to the Ravelry pattern page for the pattern, but given Ravelry’s redesign and the health hazards it has posed for many, I’m opting not to do that here (but clicking Tyne’s name above will take you to her Instagram profile at least). As for Ravelry, the rollout of the new site design has been…tough. I have so much love for the people who make that site run, but like many others, I’ve been disappointed with the response from the team to the health & accessibility issues raised by so many. While people are resistant to change, and there have been negative reactions based solely on the aesthetic choices made in the new design, the people who have spoken up about accessibility and health risks are talking about something much more serious. The decisions that have been made and the communication from the team really makes it seem like they’re not taking it seriously and that they don’t get it. Or worse, that they do get it, but they don’t care. I keep hoping that what feels like radio silence (on questions they have specifically avoided responding to in their sporadic updates) is due to furiously working behind the scenes to make corrections or to compose an apology. But the more time that passes, the smaller that hope becomes. It’s kind of heartbreaking.

I’m still using the site for now because there is nothing else like it out there, but I’ve switched to the classic view and plan to keep it that way as long as I’m able. And in the meantime, I’m thinking about possible contingency plans for pattern sales, given that many of my patterns are only available on Ravelry. I’m also thinking about accessibility in my own online spaces in a way I haven’t before. I welcome thoughts on all of these issues in the comments here, especially if anyone has specific feedback about Paper Tiger (the website or my pattern formatting), but know that if you dismiss the needs or experiences of users who are unable to use Ravelry’s new design or other web accessibility problems, that’s not going to fly.

suddenly, summer

Trondheim fjord in the summer sunshine, with sailboats on the blue water and flowering cow parsley in the foreground

Summer feels like it came out of nowhere this year. After we had several days in May of waking up to fresh snowfalls that would melt away in the afternoon, the weather turned relatively quickly. June has been hot, sunny, and dry. I’ve been swimming in the fjord once or twice a week for the past couple of weeks, which has been a real source of joy. I’ve been finding small joys wherever I can, given how much of this year has been so difficult. The coronavirus pandemic has affected everyone and it’s alarming to see infection rates continue to grow back in the US. If you’re reading this from somewhere where cases are still on the rise, I hope you’re staying safe. Additionally, the Black Lives Matter protests have been both inspiring, and in the case of the police brutality being directed at protesters, infuriating. It’s been a time of massive amounts of learning for a lot of us. At times I’ve felt overwhelmed, but I’m doing my best to work through whatever feelings I have so that I’m able to take action in the ways that I can. All if this is part of why it’s been quiet here for several weeks. But I want to come back to this space again.

A red boathouse in the sunshine fills the left side of the frame, with green grass and cow parsley growing alongside it. Trondheim fjord is visible in the background to the right under a blue sky.

My hand held up in front of a massive butterbur leaf

I’d forgotten how quickly things grow in the north in the months around the summer solstice, when night recedes so far away that there’s no real darkness. Pictured above is a massive butterbur leaf (although I prefer one of its other names, “bog rhubarb,” because I find it hilarious). Back in late April, there were little butterbur flower stems popping up all over Trondheim. There are no leaves at that point, and the little flower stems are low to the ground. But now these plants are maybe a meter and a half tall, and I can’t get over how huge the leaves are. Quite the transformation. Watching the flora change on the way into summer has been a source of joy for me as well – we arrived just before midsummer last year (June 17 marked one year in Trondheim) but now that we’re a bit more settled it’s been easier to watch the changes in real time.

A white horse grazes in a field of green grass. Wildflowers grow by a fence in the foreground and deeper green trees sit in the background.

A wild-looking rose bush with white blossoms blooms in the sunshine

The lilacs are just about done, but the roses have all started blooming now. The blossoms on our apple trees came and went and now there are tiny apples appearing. We’ve slowly been getting a kitchen garden put together as well. I started some things indoors earlier in the season and while it’s taking awhile to get things moved outside, I finally feel like we’re getting somewhere. Yesterday we assembled the little greenhouse we purchased back in March, so before too long I should actually have my tomato plants into their beds. I’m still such a novice at growing vegetables, but I’m finally not afraid of making mistakes and doing things “wrong” like I used to be – learning from experience is an excellent way to learn some things. At the very least we’ve done well with greens so far this year and have enjoyed some really delicious salads from our arugula and kale.

A birds-eye view of my planter box growing healthy kale and arugula. In my left hand I hold a jar of iced coffee, and my feet in brown leather shoes are visible at the bottom of the frame.

Orange and yellow primulas bloom in the sunshine

So I’ve been doing my best to soak it all up. I feel like these summer treats are how I’m recharging right now. I’m not getting enough sleep – the clear bright nights have been so beautiful it makes me not want to miss a thing – but I know that there’s clouds and rain on the horizon and there will be space for cozier summer days too (and a little bit more sleep).

I hope you’re keeping well, and I hope you have the headspace for a little bit of making or whatever is helping you recharge these days. We’re gonna need it.

A half-eaten lemon popsicle is held up in front of the Trondheim fjord at sunset

custom woolen mills

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One of the makes I finished in April was my Aveiro sweater, by Orlane Sucche of Tête Bêche Knitwear. I shared the early stages of this one back in February, and I think it was originally cast on in January, so I didn’t quite bang it out the way I’d originally hoped. But I’ve been planning to write about this one because I wanted to share my thoughts about the yarn in particular.

custom woolen mills

I knit this up in yarn from Custom Woolen Mills, a mill in Alberta, Canada whose focus is Canadian-grown wool. For full disclosure, this yarn was sent to me free of charge to try out. I have long been interested in locally, or at least domestically-grown and produced wool yarns, so after we moved to Canada in 2017 I expressed an interest in that as well. I knew very little about Canadian wool or available Canadian wool yarns, and so when Custom Woolen Mills offered to let me try their mule-spun yarn I very gratefully accepted. I thought they might send 2-3 skeins; I did not expect them to send a sweater quantity! I received 6 skeins and a bundle of minis of their 2-ply mule-spun yarn (a worsted weight): 4 natural grey skeins, and the others were naturally dyed. The skeins are 4 oz. (112 grams) with 198m / 216 yds, making this a heavy worsted. I’d probably go as far as to call it an aran weight.

“Mule-spun” refers to the fact that the yarn is spun on a spinning mule, so named because it was a cross between the spinning jenny and the water frame. If you’ve read Clara Parkes’ Vanishing Fleece you may remember that one of her Great White Bale yarns was spun on a mule spinner in Maine, and that they’re a rarity these days (you’ll find that info in chapter 6).

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I decided to knit Aveiro with this yarn because I liked how it looked both in the pattern photos and people’s project photos, and it was easy to an additional color to the stripes so I’d be able to use both blues for the contrast. I knew the shape might be a little bit of a gamble – the raglan yoke is very deep to begin with, and I knit this at a slightly larger gauge than recommended so mine is even deeper (I went with a larger gauge since my yarn was slightly heavier than the yarn called for in the pattern). I’m still not sure if I’m sold on the shape, but otherwise I’m very fond of the finished sweater.

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As for the yarn: this is one of those yarns that really benefits from a good wash. The dyed colors smelled and felt more pleasant from the get-go, but the undyed grey either had some residual lanolin or spinning oil still in the yarn that I didn’t totally enjoy. When I blocked this sweater, I soaked it twice, emptying the water in between – I did the first soak with some of my shampoo in the water, and I used Soak wash (which is my usual wool wash) on the second soak. The finished sweater smells lovely and the residual oily feeling is definitely gone. The fabric blooms up marvelously with washing, as well.

On the downside, every skein had at least one knot. I’m not sure if there’s something about the mule spinning process that makes breakage (and thus knots) more likely, but some skeins even had multiple knots. I dealt with this by wet splicing the yarn wherever I encountered knots, which was mildly annoying, but no more than that. I also wet spliced each time I joined a new skein of the grey. The knots wouldn’t keep me from using this yarn again, given that it was relatively easy to join by splicing.

It feels like it’s going to wear very well, especially at this gauge, but as for that only time will tell!

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Thank you so much to Custom Woolen Mills for the yarn, and you can find additional details about my modifications, yarn amounts, etc. over on my Ravelry project page.

sewing in april

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I mentioned at the beginning of the year that I received a sewing machine for Christmas (after about four years of not having one), and that I was looking forward to getting into sewing again. January and February went right by without a stitch sewn, but by March and April the home isolation period seemed to offer the opportunity to pull my machine out and finally try sewing some garment projects. And so after a couple of weekends of sewing, I have two projects to share with you!

Before April, I last sewed a garment in 2015. I’d also had a couple of sewing experiences that year that I’d felt slightly frustrated by – having become a very proficient and knowledgeable knitter, I started to feel totally lost at sea when I came back to sewing as an adult, because I wanted to be equally proficient and knowledgeable in that skill. I first learned to sew as a little kid, and I sewed a fair bit in high school, but I wasn’t very fussy about details or finishing at that point in my life (and at that time, I was only knitting really basic scarves, so sewing felt like the more developed skill between the two). But as an adult? I was definitely thinking about details and realizing how very much I didn’t know.

So coming back to sewing this year, I really had to psych myself up before getting going on my first project. But I sewed two things in April! And I have more sewing projects lined up. So that’s excellent. I also decided to purchase the Learn to Sew Clothing online class from Closet Case Patterns, and I can absolutely say that’s been a wonderful investment. At first I felt slightly overwhelmed by the number of hours of video content available through the course – did I really need all of this? – but even though I know enough to sew basic garments, the course walks you through so much foundational knowledge, and a lot of it is exactly the kind of stuff I’ve felt like I’ve been lacking. I learned loads in the first three video lessons alone. Sometimes it’s really worth going back to basics.

But at any rate, here are the two projects I sewed in April:

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First up is the Berlin Jacket by Tessuti Fabrics. Now, I’m gonna say up front that this pattern only goes up to an XL, which is not great. (Size inclusivity* is something I’ve thought about a lot in the past year and I’m in the middle of working on expanding the size range for my own back catalogue of knitting patterns.) I would love to see Tessuti Fabrics expand the size range on this, because I know there are sewists above an XL who’d love to make it if it came in their size. I chose this pattern because I had a few meters of a boiled wool knit I’d ordered from a local shop, originally thinking I would use it for a dress – but at the last minute I decided it was probably too thick for that, and I’d do better to find something that specifically recommended boiled wool. I also wanted something that suited my re-entry level skills (in other words, simple and approachable). This pattern seemed to fit the bill on both counts.

The Berlin Jacket is kind of a coatigan, in that it’s lightweight and unlined, so it’s somewhere between a coat and a cardigan. It’s been a really nice layer for Trondheim’s spring weather, though. I cut the size medium and didn’t make any modifications. The sleeves are designed to have the cuffs flipped up, and while I do wear it that way if I’m wearing it indoors, if I wear it out on a walk (as in the photo at the top of the post) I find I prefer to have the cuffs flipped down for the extra length. At 6′ / 172 cm my arms are on the long side so extra length is always appreciated.

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Most of the seams are overlapped, so there are a lot of visible raw edges, which is why boiled wool is one of the recommended fabrics for this pattern (since it won’t fray). That meant minimal finishing, in theory, but it also meant I went back along some of those raw edges and trimmed any raggedy spots, since when I cut the pieces out I didn’t do the neatest job (I used shears, since I don’t have a rotary cutter). The heather grey is very forgiving, however, so even the edges that still aren’t that neat don’t look too bad. I’m overall really pleased with this project and it proved a nice first project to get back into the swing of things.

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Next up, I went looking through my (small) pattern library for a simple top, and discovered that I had the Tiny Pocket Tank by Grainline Studio. This is actually a discontinued pattern (I believe it was Grainline Studio’s first ever pattern), and it was replaced by the Willow Tank in 2016 (although the Willow has a slightly different silhouette and fit than the Tiny Pocket Tank). Both patterns only go up to a finished 46 3/4″ bust (to fit a 44″ bust), as far as I can see, so again the sizing is pretty limited. But again – this was making use of a pattern I already owned which was at the right skill level for me, and I liked the silhouette, so I decided to make use of it.

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I chose a mid-weight quilting cotton for this project, even if something slightly lighter might have been a better match for the pattern. I knew it would be easy to sew (and there are so many beautiful prints available) so it felt like a good choice for me. I skipped the eponymous tiny pocket, so the basic construction was dead easy – shoulder seams, side seams, and the hem was pretty simple to execute too. It was the neckline and armholes that took the longest. This pattern and the Willow both make use of bias facings, which I had never used before. I’ll readily admit to being one of those people who’s totally intimidated by bias tape, but I followed Grainline’s photo tutorial for flat bias facings, taking my time to go through every step, and it was worth it in the end. I did the neck first, which felt like it took forever, but the armholes went quicker and by the second one I didn’t have to check the tutorial anymore. If this were a solid color fabric with a contrasting thread, you’d probably be able to see that not all my seam lines are quiiiite as tidy as they could be, but in this fabric it’s totally passable and I’m really pleased with how well I managed to execute the facings overall.

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I made two modifications kind of on the fly, since I was trying it on as I went, and the fit was feeling a little weird when I got the main construction finished. The bust darts felt too low for me, and the front neckline on this pattern is notoriously on the low side as well. I ended up taking in the shoulder seams by a half inch, so the shoulder straps were shortened by 1″ in total, and I took out my shears and lowered the underarms by about a half inch as well. To be honest, I totally eyeballed that and I was a little nervous about the length of the bias strips still being right, but it all seems to have worked out okay. And after wearing the tank for a full day, I’m really pretty happy with the fit, so those adjustments seemed like a good call for me. Between the silhouette and the print, this is a garment that’s got me looking forward to summer, although I can wear it already as a layering piece. At the top of this post you can see it paired with the Berlin Jacket.

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Next up, I’ll continue with the Closet Case course, and I’m planning a project that ties in with that. When you purchase access to the course you also receive the PDF versions of the patterns from their Rome Collection, so I’m planning to sew a Fiore skirt. It will add a few more skills to the table which are technically all things I have done in the past (working with interfacing, sewing buttonholes and buttons), but the course is there to guide you through the tricky bits, and I’m eager to have that kind of guidance right now.

*If you’re not familiar with the size inclusivity discussion, I highly recommend checking out this interview Pom Pom Quarterly did with Jacqueline Cieslak, which was originally published in the magazine earlier this year. Jacqueline is amazing. You can check out her knitting patterns on Ravelry while you’re at it.

april

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The blog migration to WordPress is officially complete! Thanks for bearing with me as I’ve gotten everything moved over. Although I still have to go through my pattern catalog and fix all the broken links to support & tutorial posts, and that may take me some time to get through. If you find broken links elsewhere on the web, please feel free to let me know – I’d love to get them fixed.

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I feel like I have lots to catch up on here. April wasn’t busy, exactly, as it’s hard to feel busy when you spend so much time at home. But I did fill my time: knitting, sewing, baking, reading. Project planning. Garden planning. Planning planning planning. We are planning for a summer spent at home – and for once, we were actually planning on that anyway. I hope by July there’s an opportunity to do some more local travel within central Norway, but we shall see. Norway is slowly reopening (with restrictions), but I’m still trying to exercise an abundance of caution.

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I plan to share some of what I made in the month of April here on the blog very soon, so you can keep an eye out for that.